The Power of Vision – Rev. Sandra Johnson
Picture yourself sitting at home at your kitchen table, with a big juicy lime on a plate in front of you. Now take a knife and cut the lime in half. Smell and feel the juice. Now cut a slice from one half. More juice, more smell. Cut that slice in half and take that half, bring it up to your face, take a whiff and then bite into it. If you’re like most folks, as you listened to my words, something happened, your mouth puckered a bit. Your mouth began to water. Right?!
Here’s the thing, there is no lime. I created a physiological response in your body through the power of vision. By simply speaking the words and painting a picture, I was able to influence you, I was able to make your mouths water. That’s the power of vision. When we can imagine an outcome and have a physiological change in us that is power. Our vision needs to be powerful enough that we all get excited, our hearts beat a little bit faster, we maybe even get a little anxious at the enormity of our vision. That is the power of vision.
Let’s consider race car drivers. “You may not be aware of this, but one of the most important things that beginning race car drivers learn, is what to do when they lose control of the car and they go into a spin. The natural reaction is to focus on the wall or obstacle they want to avoid. Because their focus is on the wall, that’s usually where they end up. (Sort of like when you are driving and you turn to talk to your passenger and the car tends to follow). Instead of focusing on the wall, drivers learn to focus on where they want to go, away from the wall. This allows them to avoid the wall, stay on course and go where they want to go.”
Several years ago our United Methodist Global Church decided to set a vision that was audacious. It was out there. The vision was a world where children didn’t die of malaria. Imagine No Malaria was founded and in 2015 we have cut the deaths by malaria by half. The power of vision changes lives.
I find that many people and churches alike take life as it comes, without a clear vision. There may be words posted about what the mission is, or which vision they are striving for, but for an organization to be vital and change lives, we must have a clear cut vision. Proverbs 29:18 says “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Sisters and brothers, we don’t want to perish! We must avoid slamming into that wall. “It’s like the old saying, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Even when we do have a plan, it may only a partial plan. Then when our plan doesn’t work, or “hits the wall”, we don’t know where to go from there and we give up.
In order to be successful in life, in order for our church to be vital, I believe we need to have a clear vision for what it is we want. A vision is a statement of what we desire to become. What gets us excited and willing to share our resources – our sweat equity, our money, our talents? What gets you out of bed in the morning, ready to take on the day? Today, let’s look first at our purpose. What is the purpose of a church in general, and ours in particular? Why do we exist?
Our purpose is to join together people from all walks of life, all backgrounds and talents, and provide opportunities for us to be about the work of God in our community. To worship together and support one another, sharing God’s love in all we do. God’s work can be focused both internally on the folks within our church and externally in our local community and in the broader world around us.
Our scripture lessons this morning from Acts 2 in verse 42 explains about the internal function of a church – teaching and bible study, fellowship, sharing sacraments and prayer. As a church we exist to educate the body to the tenets of our faith. These are our internal purposes; those we do for ourselves. As believers we give people opportunity to practice those beliefs through our work with one another and in our community. A worshipping congregation provides a place for us to share sacred moments, communion and baptism. Acts 2 tells us that prayer is the glue that holds the community of believers together.
1 Corinthians 13:2 says that “if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Love is the center of our purpose – love for God and for one another, and for the stranger we haven’t met yet. We must use the knowledge and power and gifts that we are given for God’s glory, not our own. We are each equipped differently and are called to do and be different things within our church family and within our community. When we are learners, not only hearers of the word, when we take the time to study and master our lessons, we will become spiritually mature which in turn builds up the body of Christ.
When a community has focused on the purpose of sound teaching, a unified body is the result and the members of the church will take care of each other. The most powerful way we can care for one another is through prayer. Part of our purpose then becomes to meet the practical needs of our people through compassion, encouragement and love. I see this done most often when someone in our church family is sick. This week in fact Cheryl Sneed had her knee replaced. Dawn and I were with her before and after her surgery to pray and bring comfort. Our friend Leesha Nush has received funding for her medication when she was ill and couldn’t work.
I have seen meals shared with one another, rides given and generosity like I have never seen before. As part of the body of Christ I have assisted with neighborhood conflicts, house blessings, offered parenting help, and grief support after the loss of a loved one. We are a family. A family of believers who have come together to support one another on life’s sometimes rocky road. As a church we don’t only take care of our own, do we? We are always looking outside of these walls to see where God needs us.
Our purpose externally, as members of Christ’s community, is to deploy people outside of our church. Periodically I get called for assistance and we have been able to offer diapers to a young mother, rooms for stranded travelers, and Albertsons gift cards to a homeless family. We are called to not only take care of widows and orphans as James 1:27 says, but also to keep ourselves unstained by the world. Matthew 28:18-20 is a familiar passage that gives us the instructions from Jesus before he was called back to heaven. We call it the Great Commission or our marching orders. It is the thing we are called by Jesus to do in our communities, outside the walls of our church.
And Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, Jesus says, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What was that commandment that Jesus gave us? What did Jesus command us to obey? John 13:34 says, “That you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Our purpose for the church in 2016 is to love one another and to share that love with those around us. We aren’t just to keep this to ourselves, Jesus said we are to GO and make disciples. He doesn’t say “stay” and make disciples. We aren’t supposed to sit here inside the church and wait for people to come. We are called to be the light of the world, a light shining in the darkness. In Matthew 5:14-16 we learn that we are to be the lamp in our world, the light of Christ.
And we are not to put that light under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand so that it gives light to the household. Verse 16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” We are to be a bright light to the world.
As the local church, we are each other’s spiritual family. It is through our coming together in the body of Christ that we can pool our resources and deploy the best people and resources for the job, for work both inside the church and outside. What is most exciting for me as your pastor is to watch as the Holy Spirit speaks to you. Then you get excited at the possibilities and the plans that God has laid out. We can then work together to deploy new ministries intended by God.
This past year Heather Gaylord felt God calling her to help organize the PFLAG chapter in Boulder City. PFLAG, Parents, Friends, of Lesbian and Gay. She called a group of folks together and together we have spent the past year getting the organization set up and we are excited at the plans for the coming year. PFLAG of BC is hosting a PFLAG Youth get together on October 11 to coincide with National Coming Out day. We found out that the Gay Straight Alliance at BCHS does not have a faculty advisor, so there is no GSA this year. We are hopeful that we can offer this refuge to these students and their friends/allies so that they can receive the support they need.
Bruce Benke shared with me an idea he has for bringing the men together. I’ll let him share the details when he’s ready to do so, but it is exciting to see new ministries conceived and then birthed. Alison and I are meeting after worship today to talk about getting a divorce recover group started for the people in town. She shared the idea with me and I put it out on Facebook to my clergy friends and found the very curriculum she had found, but for free! God is at work, through each of us, our job is to listen and deploy.
God takes each of us, with our different personalities, different gifts, different viewpoints and unifies us as a single body that works together. God then equips us to care for each other and to reach out to the world with God’s love. Together we will realize spiritual maturity through the love and support of one another. Our purpose is clear – we are to follow the calling of our Lord Jesus and step out into the world and bring the light of Christ to a hurting world.
But it is our vision is what motivates us. It is why we do the things I’ve just described. Our vision brings passion to our work. It is because of our vision that we will get up early, work super hard all day long, and fall into bed at night, knowing that we fulfilled God’s vision. Habakkuk tells us that we are to write down our vision and to make it plain. It shouldn’t be complicated. It should be simple. It should be written in such a way that if someone was running by, they would be able to read it and understand. It goes on to say that our vision should be written for the current times, not something from years ago, not what we have always done, but something relevant for today. Our vision should be honest and it should represent us.
I believe that our vision at Boulder City UMC is to: be a refuge of transformation. A place where we can belong, learn and grow in our faith tradition. A refuge for people in all stages of life; children, young adults, adults, retirees, and the aged. And specifically to reach out to our LGBTQ neighbors and friends who have been harmed in the name of religion. Our vision is to be a special place of refuge for all of God’s children where our lives are transformed.
I want to share a part of a post that was put on our Facebook page, written by Mark Sielski. You may remember Mark, he used to worship with us before he moved back to Barstow. He says:
“We shopped around for a church when we moved to Boulder City. The Sunday we attended Boulder City United Methodist we knew we found the right place. It wasn’t about affiliation as I was raised Lutheran and Tony Episcopalian, but it was about how comfortable we felt with both the congregation, and if the Pastor/Preacher left us with something to think about or taught us something new.
Not only were we welcomed with open arms, but in the follow weeks we realized what an integral part the church played in the community…whether it was the local food bank, Meals on Wheels drivers, Lend A Hand drivers, taking on the Posada/Luminaria, the Easter Egg Hunt, Trunk or Treat, or supporting environmental conservancy at Lake Mead, just to name a few! This group of amazing people truly enveloped us into their lives. Thank you BCUMC!
Being a place of refuge and offering hope for transformation is a powerful vision.
We can implement our vision as we transform our community by being the hands and feet of Christ, making a difference in practical ways: a divorce group, God’s Gathering Place, and other hands-on ministries. We can be that place of shelter for all of our church family and others as they come and join us as we navigate life together. We will also fulfill our vision by connecting others with their God-given gifts and talents to God’s glory, and enabling us all to fulfill our own call, whatever that may be.
The church is not a building. We know that don’t we?! We are a church without a building of our own. But we know that church is a combination of people and ministries that bring transformation. That is a vision that excites me. Next week I want to continue this topic as we focus on how we will do what we are called to do to transform lives. How will we implement our vision and purpose? What responsibility do each of us have to bring it to fruition? That my friends will have to wait for next week.
Let us pray: Gracious Lord, light a fire of your vision within our hearts today. Let us get fired up to implement this vision of transformation that you have planted within us. Help us to discover the resources we need to make your vision a reality. Amen.